Surprise! Is that you?!

I recently had my annual physical and was surprised to find the parking lot so empty. For 15 years whenever I would come to that appointment it was impossible to find a parking spot without waiting and circling the area. So where was everybody? Did a business that was in the professional building close?

The answer was simple. The nurse told me there is an accountant in the building so the lot is always packed before April 15th but after that, it’s like this, every year. In previous years I had scheduled my appointments in early April rather than later April (my birthday month) so from my viewpoint, I assumed the lot was always crowded. The reality was based on my snapshot view, not the actual facts regarding the parking lot.

That realization is similar to my perception of my first colleague’s children. In 1975 when I joined a law firm I remember chatting with my mentor about his children as we looked at a photo of them on his desk. They were 4 and 6 at the time. No matter how many years later, whenever I would talk with him about his kids, I was always surprised at the news of their graduations, marriages, births of children, having to fight the images in my head of the little tykes in his desk photo.

Often our perceptions of others are based on a snapshot, a short interaction in their lives that makes an impression that we find it hard to forget. If it’s someone whom we don’t see often, that view could be a total distortion of who the person really is. We may have caught him or her on a bad day, or when doing something very uncharacteristic, and yet it’s hard to shake the memory of the experience. When that happens and we see them later, or discuss them with others, it can be confusing since the snapshot left such a different impression. “You think Uncle Joe is grumpy??!! Oh my gosh, he’s the nicest guy.” Only to find out I met him on a day when he had been dealing with bad traffic on the way home. It’s not so much a rush to judgment as it is human nature. How else can we know another than through interaction? All the more reason to not allow snapshots to create snap judgments. Perhaps striving for a video rather than our inclination for a quick photo would help. Or better yet, if the situation is appropriate, cultivate relationship through phone calls and visits or working together, more opportunities to get past first impressions.

And as for us when we are the subject of the shot, understanding the realities of human nature in this regard, the more motivation we have to live loving others and to act with kindness. So we had a bad day. No reason to take it out on others. Unkind behavior creates the possibility for an interaction that creates a false impression of what we are like even at other times. Living lovingly is a gift to others as we consciously work to control our negative tendencies.

Our problems do not need to become other people’s problems. Interestingly, as we think of others in times of personal challenges it actually helps to lessen the negative impact to ourselves, for the love God brings into this world heals us as we open up our hearts to think this way, even when it’s not easy to do so. When I was really sick recently, rather than be grumpy and bring my negativity to Sid, I felt HaShem gave me insights to feel how others feel when they’re sick. Feeling His love deepened my comprehension of compassion for others who struggle with illness and truthfully, helped in my own healing on multiple levels.

As we venture out this week, I encourage you to not rush to judgment, for things are very often not what they appear. And let’s consciously live loving others, even in the hard times, so that even the snapshots become a full length movie of His love.

Shabbat shalom.

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